Saturday, November 25, 2017

Jan's Head

THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE-1962-On the operating table an old doctor (Bruce Brighton) pronounces his patient dead, but Bill (Herb “soon to be Jason” Evers), another doctor who happens to be his son takes over and revives the patient. 

While dad is proud of his arrogant son's accomplishment he still feels trepidation toward his actions (“The operating table is no place for experiments”). While debating this and Bill's ambition to do major limb transplants in the future (using his “secret compound”) their nurse Jan (Virginia Leith) enters. She also happens to be Bill's fiancee. Before they can have a romantic weekend Bill gets a mysterious urgent call from his “country place” where he does his experimenting. 

With Jan in tow Bill drives like a maniac to the place but wrecks his car. He is somehow thrown from the car and unharmed but Jan isn't so lucky. She's decapitated in the fiery crash. Fortunately Bill retrieves the head, wraps it in his jacket and runs to the country place. With the help of his German assistant Kurt (Leslie Daniel) who has a deformed arm, Jan's head is placed in a pan with a lot of tubes and wires and is brought back to life! Meanwhile something hideous is locked in another room in the lab. Bill goes out looking for Jan's new body. He goes to a gin joint and tries to pick up a dancer. He sizes her up and she seems to fit the bill but he's deterred by another weird talking dancer. The two rivals wind up fighting on the floor. Meanwhile Jan's head develops some kind of psychic link with the thing in the closet (“Together we will reek our revenge”). Kurt debates with the head while Bill still looks for the perfect body which he believes he finds in Doris (Adele Lamont), a hot but scarred model who poses for “a bunch of neurotics”. Bill really shows his deceitful side when he convinces Doris to go to the country place so her face can be healed. Jan plots with the thing and eventually Kurt's good arm is torn off. Somehow Kurt now with only a bloody stump crawls up the lab stairs to the living quarters but when he gets there he crawls back down to the lab and dies! Bill drugs Doris and plans to put Jan's head on her body but Jan makes the thing break out of the closet and attack Bill. Their fight is kind of doofy, involving a door and the ugly monster biting a chunk out of Bill's arm and then examining the bloody piece he bit off. The monster is a huge guy with a deformed face (obviously a mask). He carries Doris away (God only knows what happened when she woke up!) and Jan and Bill burn to death. 

 This exploitation sickie was directed and co-written by Joseph Green who owned his own small film distribution company. It's too bad he waited 24 years to make his next and last film (THE PERILS OF P.K.). He seemed to know how to pack a lot of sleaze, gore and fun into one movie! 

Jason Evers' egotistic oily doctor though supposedly only concerned with science by his semi-sinister grin when ogling a woman's body seems like he can't wait to bring her home and cut her up. While Virginia Leith's severed head role of Jan is pretty intense it's been said she was so disgusted by the role she gave up acting altogether (she's made her screen debut in Kubrick's first film FEAR AND DESIRE) though she made sporadic TV appearances later on (and is still with us at the time of this writing). Co-producer Rex Carlston later produced a couple of Al Adamson movies but committed suicide in 1968. For some reason Sammy Petrillo (who with Duke Mitchell met a Brooklyn gorilla some years before) appears as a photographer in one scene. 

BRAIN was filmed (around Tarrytown, NY) in 1959 but due to financial troubles wasn't released until 1962. 

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Drac vs. Mods

DRACULA AD-1972-A group of Mods perform a black mass in an abandoned church. Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame)), their leader mixes his blood with the dried blood of Count Dracula and brings him back to (un-dead) life. His first victim is played by Caroline Munro. Van Helsing's grandson (Peter Cushing) has a daughter Jessica (Stephanie Beacham) Drac wants. He kidnaps her but granddad tracks them down and he and Drac have a showdown where Van Helsing uses a silver dagger, holy water and a shovel to beat the king of vampires and reduce his body to ooze. 

This, the seventh Dracula Hammer film and the sixth to star Lee in the title role was directed by Alan Gibson who would also direct the last of the series THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA the next year. Screenwriter Don Houghton also penned SATANIC RITES, SHATTER and THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES and many episodes of Doctor Who. For years DRACULA AD has been much maligned by critics and fans. There's really nothing to it but in retrospect it's an enjoyable time capsule.

In America DRACULA AD played on a double bill with CRESCENDO (also directed by Gibson). 

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017


BTK-2008-A guy named Dennis (Kane Hodder) who calls himself a “compliance officer” is thought to be a nice guy though it's obvious he's nuts. He's actually a serial killer who wants to make a name for himself. It uses the case of a real life killer who used the same initials (it stands for Bind. Torture. Kill) but that's just an excuse to show an excess of violence, torture and gore. “Ain't Nobody's Business” by Mississippi John Hurt is heard over the end credits. 

Director/screenwriter Michael Feifer had made CHICAGO MASSACRE: RICHARD SPECK and exploited other real life murderers and their crimes with ED GEIN: THE BUTCHER OF PLAINFIELD, BUNDY: AN AMERICAN ICON and THE BOSTON STRANGLER:THE UNTOLD STORY.

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Does anyone remember the original Harvey Films production of the cartoon Casper the Friendly Ghost? I didn't watch it much as a kid (when it was shown on TV in the '60's) but BOO MOON (made in 1953) is pretty unforgettable! Casper is really tired of people being scared of him so he goes to the moon after looking through a telescope and seeing the friendly face of "the man in the moon". He flies through space but is disappointed when he can't find the man. Casper falls falls asleep and is captured by some moon people. They kind of resemble the lilliputians in Gulliver's Travels! Their king named Luna calls poor Casper a monster and has him locked in a cage until some frightening looking "tree men" attack. Somehow the moon people use flaming arrows to destroy their enemies until the trees shoot water at them putting out their fire. When the wood rascals start kidnapping everyone (including the king) Casper joins the fray and destroys the monsters. Casper wins the admiration of the moon people and gets a special medal.

The end makes it seem like he'd stay on the moon where he's now a hero but it wasn't to be. He'd be back on the Earth by the next cartoon.

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Monday, October 9, 2017

Forgotten Cosmo

COSMO JONES THE CRIME SMASHER-1943-In this low budget Monogram crime drama with comic overtones, amateur criminologist Cosmo Jones (Frank Graham, mainly a voice actor and announcer)), a nerdy umbrella toting guy teams up with an African-American janitor (Mantan Moreland) to help vindicate a cop named Flanagan (Richard Cromwell) accused of killing a bystander. His captain is played by Edgar Kennedy and his girlfriend is Gale Storm. Jones can impersonate many voices and there's a gang war and the kidnapping of a rich woman but the story isn't very good and Moreland is wasted (though he helps catch the thugs). 

Director James Tinling made CHARLIE CHAN IN SHANGHAI and MR. MOTO'S GAMBLE plus a whole bunch of forgotten low budget features and later went into TV. Despite having a very successful career star Frank Graham committed suicide in 1950.

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Junkie Jive

THE CONNECTION-1961-Some junkie Jazz musicians (including saxophonist Jackie MacLean) wait around an apartment for their dealer Cowboy (Carl Lee, later he had a role in SUPERFLY) to come with their junk. Meanwhile the whole thing is being filmed cinema verite' by a director Jim (William Redfield) and his unseen cameraman JJ (the voice of Roscoe Lee Jones). The group discuss various topics for the camera and a Salvation Army “sister” shows up to “save” them. They also jam and later Jim shoots up and becomes an addict. 

THE CONNECTION was the first feature film by Shirley Clarke, a former choreographer who prior to this made only short films. Controversial at the time it was made, now it just seems like a relic but considering it's presented as “found footage” (a genre all the rage today) it is ahead of it's time. Based on a play by Jack Gelber who adapted it for the film. The same year director Clarke won an Academy Award for a short about Robert Frost.

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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Rock It, Cat

ROCK, ROCK, ROCK-1956-Teenager Dory (13 year old Tuesday Weld in her movie debut) gets into some trouble trying to make money so she can buy a new dress for her prom. A bitch named Gloria (Jacqueline Kerr) tricks Dory into lending her some money then blackmails Dory's boyfriend Tommy (Teddy Randazzo who of course also sings) into taking her to the prom instead of Dory. Later Dory turns the tables on Gloria and gets her dress, her date and Alan Freed (also featured in ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK the same year) hosts the prom which features music by Connie Francis (who also dubbed Dory's singing), Chuck Berry, Frankie Lymon, Dion and The Belmonts, LaVerne Baker, The Moonglows and Johnny Burnette. 

This harmless black and white nonsense with great music was the production collaboration of Englishman Milton Subotsky (who wrote the screenplay) and American Max Rosenberg before they formed Amicus Productions in England making some great horror anthologies giving the then dominant Hammer studio a run for it's money. 

Director Will Price, a former husband of Maureen O'Hara, didn't do anything after ROCK as his career was hampered by alcohol abuse. He died in 1962 at the age of 48....

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